Appointing to Govern: Party Patronage in Europe

Date01 January 2014
AuthorMichelangelo Vercesi
Published date01 January 2014
Book Reviews 131
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 74, Iss. 1, pp. 131–133. © 2013 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12159.
Michelangelo Vercesi is a
postdoctoral scholar in the Center for
the Study of Democracy, Leuphana
University Lüneburg. He holds a doctorate
in political science from the University of
Pavia and has studied at the University of
Vienna. His main research interests are
comparative government, political elites,
coalition politics, and Italian politics. He has
published articles in peer-reviewed journals
such as Government and Opposition,
Contemporary Italian Politics, and
Quaderni di scienza politica.
Sonia M. Ospina and Rogan Kersh, Editors
Michelangelo Vercesi
Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany
Petr Kopecký, Peter Mair, and Maria Spirova, eds.,
Party Patronage and Party Government in Euro-
pean Democracies (Oxford, UK: Oxford University
Press, 2012). xvi, 415 pp. $110.00 (cloth), ISBN:
Fabrizio Di Mascio, Partiti e stato in Italia: Le nomine
pubbliche tra clientelismo e spoils system (Bologna,
Italy: Il Mulino, 2012). 271 pp. €26.00, ISBN:
Modern democracies are party democra-
cies. Parties can be more (e.g., traditional
European mass parties) or less (e.g., U.S.
parties) structured.  ey can be tightly linked to
society or to a specif‌i c societal segment, or they can
reproduce the traits of the so-called cartel party
model. Whatever the dif‌f erences, parties are the actors
that make representative democracies work.
From this viewpoint, party patronage is a quite
neglected topic. Patronage is usually conceived as a
form of compensation for a party’s favors (mostly
electoral support), and journalist-chronicled exam-
ples are rife across developed and developing party
systems alike. Yet scholars of party government more
frequently focus on the modes of selection of politi-
cal rulers and on the behavior of party actors in the
executive branch, directing less attention to party
patronage as a vital aspect of governance.
A comprehensive and empirically updated book on
party patronage that attempts to redress this oversight
is, in principle, a warmly welcomed contribution. And
this is what Party Patronage and Party Government in
European Democracies, edited by Petr Kopecký, Peter
Mair, and Maria Spirova, seeks to be. In its structure,
it follows the classic pattern of many comparative
edited volumes.  e three editors provide the theoreti-
cal framework, lay out guidelines for the empirical
research, and draw summary conclusions. In between,
several country experts provide their contributions
across 15 chapters, each dedicated to one country.
Linking the two books under review, the author of
the Italian case has also written the second book
reviewed here. Notwithstanding the shared origin
with its “elder brother,Partiti e stato in Italia (Parties
and State in Italy) is more than a mere spinof‌f ; rather,
it is a valuable ef‌f ort to provide a better understanding
of how political parties control institutions and the
extent to which they do so through public appoint-
ments in a country considered a textbook example
of patronage.  is relation between the two works is
enough to justify a common review. Let us take the
two books in turn, beginning with that by Kopecký,
Mair, and Spirova.
e scope of Party Patronage testif‌i es to the large-scale
ef‌f ort behind it.  e book’s focus is not only on a
specif‌i c part of the European Continent; the range of
the countries goes from northern to southern, from
western to eastern, from older to newer democracies.1
e f‌i rst chapter, by two of the editors (Kopecký and
Mair), poses the framework for analysis.  e authors
distinguish between party patronage as an organiza-
tional resource and patronage as an electoral resource
(clientelism and brokerage). What is at stake is the
f‌i rst kind of patronage. Patronage represents “a form
of institutional control or of institutional exploitation
that operates to the benef‌i t of the party organization.
. . . Patronage in this sense can best be considered as
[one of the forms of] party-state linkage[s], rather
than as a party-society linkage” (7–8). Simply, patron-
age is def‌i ned as “the power of political parties to
appoint people to positions in state institutions” (8),2
with its scope of inf‌l uence being the range of posi-
tions that are distributed.
ree reasons extracted from the literature for expect-
ing more party patronage in this sense are singled out.
First, parties are now situated more in public of‌f‌i ces
and less in organizations of mass integration; they
behave, according to the famous expression of Ingrid
Van Biezen, as public utilities. In this view, patron-
age becomes a crucial resource for parties to anchor
themselves to the political system. Second, the decline
Appointing to Govern: Party Patronage in Europe

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